Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Cheating at exams


While still in school I and most of the other children realised that cog notes (okay, “crib” notes if you must) were not really much help even if it was common to brag about how much writing you could fit on the back of your tie. You can write “Famine: 1845-1849, million dead” on the ball of your thumb but that’s not going to be much use to you if the question is “To what extent can the famine of 1845 to 1849 and the ensuing deaths of a million Irish people be blamed on the laissez faire economic policy of the English?”

Yet in Poland we have a country that could not function without cogging (and its “legitimate” friend, rote-learning). I never could understand how such schoolboyish japes could last the course into the adulthood of modern Poles. Until I came across the official, state Polish as a foreign language exam, that is. Browsing through the grammar section of the most advanced level I came across the following pearls in a gap-filling exercise:

“Last weekend I and a few (friends) went to the (White Eagle). At one of the tables there sat a few (men), among which I recognised two (priest) (acquaintances) and one (judge)…”

I don’t hobnob much with Polish priests and judges (or dukes) and the reason is simple: they are highly irregular nouns. In fact, a brief perusal of the grammar paper shows that irregularities are virtually the only things examined. Elsewhere the correct conjugations of the following verbs are demanded: potłuc, podrzeć, zmiąć, pognieść and wedrzeć się. Every serious student will know and dread these words. The rather rare perfective form of the past participle (I think that’s what it’s called anyway: the –wszy form) is required and another section keeps asking about 15+ children, 9+ pupils and, strangely for Catholic Poland, 3+ parents. Again, all so difficult that real Poles usually avoid these forms, even going so far as to prefer the easily declined “osoby” (persons) to “ludzie” (people). Tell a Pole about the ways of the –oro number forms and watch the eyes glaze over… Another section examines how well you know the multifarious and various prefixes of the verb “paść” (fall – but knowing that is no help at all.)

In short, you could easily pass this part by rote learning or cheating but by merely knowing Polish? Much harder.

Comments are closed.